[personal profile] rj_anderson
I don't normally get involved in censorship debates, because more often than not I haven't read the works in question, have no desire to read the works in question (not because I am pre-convinced that they are evil, but because they are based on a premise or deal with subject matter that doesn't interest me), and don't have the time to investigate both sides of the controversy in enough depth to have an intelligent opinion on it.

However. This time, I have read the book in question. Twice in fact, most recently a few months ago. And so I do feel that I can (and should) say:

Laurie Halse Anderson's novel Speak is not pornography.

It is the farthest thing from pornography, in fact -- a novel which shows the devastating effect that being raped has on an innocent teenaged girl. Not a girl who "went looking for it", but an ordinary girl teetering on the line between childhood and adulthood, who went to her first high school party and ended up way out of her depth. It is a novel about the girl next door. A girl who could be your sister, your niece, your daughter.

The scenes dealing with rape are very carefully written. They are not excessive. They are not graphic. They are most definitely, assuredly, not titillating or gratuitous. They contain just enough information to let the reader figure out what happened -- and that what is taking place is an act of violence, something that devastates and humiliates and destroys, not anything that any sane reader, boy or girl, could find appealing.

I believe Speak has a place in high school classrooms. I wish I had been given the chance to study it in school, instead of a lot of tedious adult novels about people having mid-life crises and reminiscing about the Second World War. Because I think reading Melinda's story would have given me a better understanding of some of my classmates, if I had been aware that some of them had been through similar experiences to Melinda, and how grateful and relieved I should be that I had not. And if I had been tempted to go to parties where alcohol was being served and there was little or no parental supervision, I think reading Speak would have done a great deal to make me very cautious about doing so, or put me off the idea altogether.

I am not defending Speak because I believe children and teens should be allowed to read anything and everything regardless of content. I am not defending Speak because I think parents have no right to be concerned about the books their children are reading in school. I am defending Speak because I believe the accusations being made against it are uninformed and ridiculous. In fact, I believe that if the Concerned Parent in question is really so determined to make sure that children in his district never encounter any material dealing with illicit sexuality or sexual violence, then he would do well to go to his Bible and rip out the stories of Lot and his daughters, Judah and Tamar, and of Dinah in Genesis; the horrific tale in Judges of the Levite and his concubine; and about a chapter and a half of Ezekiel, among other things.

But those stories do belong in the Bible, because they are written in such a way as to shock and dismay us that such things could happen, not to thrill us and make us want to do likewise. They serve as warnings and laments about the state of the sinful human heart, and what terrible things can happen when people ignore or openly reject God's laws and the stirrings of their own conscience. Many Christian parents prefer not to draw their children's attention to those particular parts of the Bible when they are young, but I know of none who take the Bible away from their children or forbid them from reading it on the off chance that they might find those shocking passages on their own. Even though the chapters in Ezekiel are far more explicit (and sensual) than anything contained in a book like Speak.

I am a conservative evangelical Christian, and I take my faith seriously. I do choose to be selective about what I read, what I allow my children to read, and what I recommend to others. But I also choose to be informed about what a book really contains, and in what context, and with what intent and overall effect on the reader, before I decide whether it is inappropriate or not. And I believe that Speak contains nothing that is inappropriate for its intended teenage audience. I do not believe that it portrays evil as good, or makes immoral behavior enticing.

Speak is not pornography, any more than the Bible is pornography. I believe that individual teens and families who are concerned about Speak's subject matter should be free to choose a different book to study if they wish, but I do not believe that taking Speak out of the hands of all students is a wise or God-honoring choice.

Date: 2010-09-20 01:57 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] sartorias.livejournal.com
Well said.

Date: 2010-09-20 02:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] izhilzha.livejournal.com
What the...?

Some people are crazy. I don't even understand how someone could slap that label on this book, at all. Wow.

Well said, RJ.

Date: 2010-09-20 02:36 pm (UTC)
ext_1358: (Default)
From: [identity profile] grav-ity.livejournal.com
And now I have another book on my list of books to read. ;)

Sometimes I wish people would just THINK. And maybe READ the book before the decry it.

Date: 2010-09-20 03:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patty1943.livejournal.com
I think that idiot is planning a run for office. He would certainly fit in as a liar and an idiot.
You can read his entire insane rant at http://www.boarddocs.com/mo/republic/Board.nsf/ab6bd8d56fbee98a8725731b0060c686/ea8aaefc50a6f9a387257727007d2776/$FILE/School%20Board%20Presentation%20%28Scroggins%29.pdf.
Hope things are well with you.

From Nichole

Date: 2010-09-20 05:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Ok, I haven't read it yet, but you have me convinced. It's a shame that parents today slap labels half-hazardly over some books. I have a friend whose parents let her read Twilight, but who won't let her read LOTR because they say it's evil.

Don't they get it? "Don't judge a book by it's cover" means not to judge a book by its dust flap either.

Of course, maybe I'm wrong here, and I have not read the book... but if they can put something on a book like that, then they can certainly slap labels on "House" and "Monster" and the Circle Trilogy... all considered good christian books. And I LOVE those books!

Come on people!

Date: 2010-09-20 07:18 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] scionofgrace.livejournal.com
I have not read Speak, but I agree with your sentiments wholeheartedly. (In fact, by the sound of it, I'd be more worried about the reader being scarred than titillated, but that's rectified by doing such revolutionary things as knowing your children and discussing it afterward.)

And you left out the Song of Solomon. Which could be legitimately labeled as porn, and is still in the Bible. :-)

Date: 2010-09-20 08:04 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mguibord.livejournal.com
Very well said. Thanks for a thoughtful post.

Date: 2010-09-20 09:53 pm (UTC)
innerslytherin: (reading (aka Reid reads))
From: [personal profile] innerslytherin
As a former librarian, I used to wrestle at times with the idea of freedom of information v. my personal Christianity. But I ordered books that went against my personal beliefs because those were books people wanted, and the taxpayers were the ones footing my paycheck. I also wrote on the school newspaper, so I grew up with strong feelings about censorship. I'm also of the opinion that the more forbidden things are, the more we humans want them.

I'm someone who generally reads to escape from real life. I'm not someone who likes "issue" books. (NOT that I'm calling Speak an "issue" book, but there are so many books that fall short of what LHA accomplished with that book, that ARE "issue" books.)

But I loved Speak. I was moved and shaken by Speak. I was horrified by Speak. But not because of the book--because I knew it had to be an accurate portrayal of the horror that so many young girls and women go through. I remember vividly the way Melanie chewed her lips bloody as she kept her silence. The book struck me in a visceral way that mere information about rape never could.

What's the best way to educate teens about rape? It's for darn sure not giving them a list about how often it happens and how something like 6 out of 10 women know their attacker. Whether or not those facts are true, making the kids care about someone whose story they're experiencing is much more powerful.

Not that educating people is the point of Speak, but it certainly does that right along with ripping your guts out while you read it.

I just found out about this brouhaha today, and my tweets about it brought the book to the attention of a friend of mine. She and I have often disagreed about the matter of censorship and whether things should be owned in school libraries. She has an 11-year-old, and she's one of those conscientious working mothers who I think struggles with guilt that she can't be there every minute. But the thing is, my mom was a stay-at-home mom until I was in middle school, and I STILL found ways to get into trouble.

We can't protect our children from the world. There's just no way short of wrapping them in a bubble. And when there are books out there like Speak that can help them question and make sense of the world around them, even in some way, why would we ever want to lock those books up?

I feel sorry for that guy's kids. They're obviously missing out on a lot, since he has the power to deny them what he's trying to deny everyone else.

This is an awesome post!

Date: 2010-09-20 09:55 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
As a person of faith, I'm loving the wonderful, thoughtful posts put up by Christian authors about this book. If you haven't read Veronica Roth's and Myra McEntire's blog posts, you should check them out.

http://veronicarothbooks.blogspot.com/2010/09/christian-take-on-banning-speak.html

http://writingfinally.blogspot.com/2010/09/speak-loudly-in-defense-of-laurie-halse.html

~Miriam Forster
http://www.msforster.blogspot.com/

Date: 2010-09-21 01:04 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thegameiam.livejournal.com
I haven't read the book, but it sure seems like those who want to ban it are way off the mark (much like the folks who want to ban Huckleberry Finn due to racially unpleasant language.

Date: 2010-09-22 03:49 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] thefish30.livejournal.com
Can any one of the worthies here speak to the suitability/literary value of Jodi Picoult's "The Pact"? My daughter may be assigned it for freshman English. From what I know so far, I don't look forward to either of us having to read it.

Jodi Picoult

Date: 2010-10-01 06:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] cytowolf.livejournal.com
I can't speak to its suitability past the information obtained from a quick google. It seems like the sort of book that deals with an important issue but from an author that seems to have an openly hostile perspective to right-wing christianity. It might be the sort of thing that would be interesting to dissect/deconstruct if you cared to spend the time and mental energy.

However, what I can speak to is that when I was in school, usually if I approached a teacher and said I had a real problem with something because of my religious conviction/ flat out refused they'd assign me something else. Perhaps if you're positive and non-confrontational and your daughter is in agreement the school would be willing to accommodate you.

Date: 2010-09-22 11:56 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] faeriemaiden.livejournal.com
I think you are seriously fabulous. Thanks for this. (Though I haven't read the book in question, I definitely plan to now.)

(Also, having a fellow rational conservative evangelical Christian on my flist makes the internet seem a lot less lonely.)

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